Posted 18 February 2010


In Celebration of Psalm Nineteen:
God's handiwork in Creation

General Introduction:
Physical and Chemical Prerequisites for Life

The very existence of a universe in which life can exist requires that it must have some quite remarkable properties. This chapter mentions a few of the most sweeping and general of these properties. Others will be mentioned in due course as our reconstruction of the Creation Narrative proceeds.

Collectively, these remarkable "coincidences" that are necessary for life to exist are called the Anthropic Principle. The classic (but not the first) treatment of this topic is Barrow and Tipler's The Anthropic Cosmological Principle, first published in 1986.

Some of these coincidences take the form of precisely chosen values for many physical and chemical properties.
See Reasons to Believe for a (frequently updated) list of these prepared by Dr. Hugh Ross. See also the Wikipedia article on fine tuning.

The Necessary Size and Age of the Universe.

Over the past hundred years scientists have discovered many (but certainly not all!) of the former secrets of the universe. For example, it is now known how the elements can be formed by nuclear processes that take place during the life and death of stars. This knowledge is thoroughly based on many thousands of scientific experiments conducted in high energy nuclear accelerators which can duplicate the thermonuclear energy and temperature conditions that prevailed in the early universe and in the stars.

Each element has its own thoroughly-studied development pathways -- known natural thermonuclear and radiative processes that form the element[FOOTNOTE: See, for example, the description of the nucleosynthesis processes in Lang's Astrophysical Formulae 3rd Edition, Volume I Chapter 4 "High Energy Astrophysics". Figure 4.6 notes the nuclear processes, which are listed on p. 406. The second edition of this reference (which I prefer) includes a comprehensive table of the processes (Table 38 p. 335-372, cf. p. 420) which is missing in the third edition]. There are perhaps a dozen of these processes, some of which occurred at the very beginning of the universe, some of which take place in the interiors of stars, and some of which occur in the violent death-throes of a dying star[FOOTNOTE: The modern description of the way that the stars form the elements was first given in the famous "B2FH" paper: E. M. Burbidge, G. R. Burbidge, W. A. Fowler, F. Hoyle (1957). "Synthesis of the Elements in Stars". Reviews of Modern Physics 29 (4): 547–650. Ironically, Fowler but not Hoyle received a Nobel Prize for the work. For almost a century prior to this paper, some scientists had speculated that the elements were formed in the stars. For example,
Lawrence Henderson in his book The Fitness of the Environment (1913), page 17,  states: "No doubt the manifestations of energy within the sun and stars, like the accompanying material phenomena there, can to-day only be surmised. For aught we know, these places may, as has been guessed, be the birthplace of elements and the seat of manifestations of energy [the then-unknown energies of fusion and fission - dcb] quite different from what we have ever observed." How true!].

It takes about 10 billion years for these natural processes to produce the mix of elements that are found in the solar sytem and are needed to support life. It then takes another several billion years to form the solar system from these elements and prepare the ecosystem to support human life[FOOTNOTE: B&T p.3 "For there to be enough time to construct the constituents of living beings, the Universe must be at least ten billion years old and therefore, as a consequence of its expansion, at least ten billion light years in extent...The universe needs to be as big as it is in order to evove just a single carbon-based life-form.]. As we develop the Creation Narrative, the reasons for these lengths of time will be made clearer, but for now the important fact is that the project of Life requires a minimum of about 15 billion years, give or take a billion or two. In fact, the age of the universe is in that range, so that life has arrived, arguably, as soon as possible, at the first possible opportunity. As we develop the Creation Narrative, empirical observation indicates that "as soon as possible" -- i.e. no wasted time -- is a characteristic of creation.

It is worth noting the point of view developed in the Creation Narrative, which is that if natural processes are able provide a part of the Creation Narrative, then that is what God did, because he uses natural processes whenever they suffice to achieve the needed result.

As a consequence, with the universe expanding at about the speed of light, it is necessary that the human creation would look out and find a universe as large and as empty as our universe is. Clearly the miniscule size of our particular dwelling place in the universe does not imply man's insignificance in the scheme of things, despite the confident claims of some[FOOTNOTE: B&T p. 2 "Many a philosopher has argued against the ultimate importance of life in the Universe by pointing out how little life there appears to be compared with the enormity of space and the multitude of distant galaxies. But the Big Bang cosmological picture shows this up as too simplistic a judgemment." -- GIVE SOME SPECIFIC EXAMPLES]. It could not be otherwise -- unless, ironically, God short-cut the natural processes and created the materials of life by fiat. In that case, man could appear to play a dominant role in the universe, but it could only be by shortcutting the natural processes.

This leads to the question: What must be true of a universe that will allow it to produce the elements and last for 15 billion years? It turns out that such a universe must be very special indeed!

Opposing Forces in Nature. An over-riding characteristic of nature is that according to the rules of Nature, there always seems to be a delicate balance between opposing tendencies. In the case of the universe, those opposing tendencies determine survival or catastrophe and frankly catastrophe seems to be the more natural expectation (except that we are here!).  Here are some examples that recur repeatedly in the Creation Narrative:

Matter-antimatter annhilation. In the first instance, there is the matter of antimatter. Under high energy conditions such as occurred shortly after the Big Bang, and perhaps also occur at certain times in stellar processes[FOOTNOTE: And in Feynman diagrams, which is somewhat outside of the scope of our discussions!], matter and antimatter pairs form, and the normal expectation would be that they would also mutually annihilate in short order as particles of matter brush against particles of antimatter. Apparently, the only reason why matter dominates the universe is because there is a very slight imbalance in the physics so that antimatter is slightly more instable than matter[FOOTNOTE: Curiously, all (?) attempts to see this in the laboratory have failed! Perhaps we just haven't done it a billion times.], and about 1 in a billion anti-particles spontaneously disintegrates before it encounters matter. The primordial process was over in a fraction of a second after the Big Bang, after which primordial antimatter disappeared from the universe.

Gravitational Collapse vs. Runaway Expansion. Immediately after the Big Bang the universe was nearly infinitely dense and hot, but expanding rapidly at nearly the speed of light. The force of gravitation works against the momentum of the expansion. The normal expectation is that one of these would win out: either the universe would collapse back on itself in catastrophic annhilation or else it would expand so fast that gravitational attraction could not take hold and the universe would expand forever into a virtually empty void with few galaxies or stars. In actuality, neither extreme occurred.

Galaxies and Stars vs. Black Holes.  A similar tension between gravity and expansion plays out locally throughout space.  This is three-way tension between gravitationally unbound (and accelerating) expansion, star formation, and the formation of black holes. Early in the universe -- for the first 300,000 years -- the universe is too hot for proper atoms to form: the thermal energy overwhelms the proton-electron binding energy. The whole universe is a plasma, meaning that every particle has a positive (mostly hydrogen or helium nuclei) or negative (electrons) charge. The electrical forces overwhelm the gravitational forces, so that no gravitationally-bound bodies or clouds of matter can form. The high energy of electrical forces as compared with gravitational forces guarantee that over all but the very smallest volumes, the net electrical forces (nearly) cancel out -- i.e. the sum of positive and negative charges is close to zero. After this period of a plasma universe, when the universe has cooled to the point where the thermal energy of the electrons is less than the binding force of the nuclei, most of the positive nuclei and negative electrons combine into atoms. This happens fairly quickly, and from this point on, gravitation becomes a dominant force in the universe. As local clouds of matter coalesce under gravity, the result is stars and galaxies -- or black holes, which form if the mass becomes very high. Black holes are like an alien kind of matter. They are very uncongenial to life. The centers of many (if not all) galaxies are black holes, which gradually accumulate matter from the surrounding galaxy. In fact small black holes can exist throughout space, and may contribute a major portion of the total mass of the universe -- but they are unable to support life. The critical problem faced by the universe is to have local densities of matter that are high enough to produce stars but not so high as to produce too many black holes.

Properties Required to Achieve a  Universe of the Necessary Size and Age:
Flatness, Density and near-homogeneity of the Early Universe

So how does the universe manage to arrive at 10-15 billion years of age without collapsing, or expanding so fast that stars cannot form to make the elements and solar system needed for life? Collapse can occur in two ways: either the entire universe collapses, or the contents collapse into a myriad of black holes.

Flatness and the initial Density of the Universe. In order for the universe to last for 10-15 billion years without either collapsing or expanding too fast, the early universe had to have exactly the correct density. Only in the past few decades has it been discovered how precise that density had to be (See Figure 1). One nanosecond
(10-9 sec.) after the Big Bang the density had to be exactly
 447,225,917,218,507,401,284,016.0 gm/cc ± 0.2 gm/cc.
Less than this, and the universe expands at an accelerating rate due to the decreasing gravitational retardation, with the result that none of the elements needed for life are created. More than this, and the universe collapses in on itself too soon to support life. The required accuracy is less than 2 parts in 1025.  For comparision, consider that a gram-mole of an element has 6.02 x 1023 atoms (the Avogadro number). A change in the Avogadro number by a single atom would be a greater percentage change than the accuracy required in the density of the universe at one nanosecond after the Big Bang.
Figure 1
Expansion of the Universe after the Big Bang

 Sharp Point

Critical Density of the early Universe
At one nanosecond (10-9 sec.) after the Big Bang the density of the Universe had to be exactly:
 447,225,917,218,507,401,284,016.0 gm/cc ± 0.2 gm/cc.

More than this, and the universe collapses in on itself too soon to support life.

Less than this, and the universe expands at an accelerating rate; stars will not form and there can be no Earth to foster life.


Homogeneity of the Universe. The Cosmic Inflation. One of the puzzles about the early universe is why it is apparently so homogeneous. Such a condition would not be expected because one would expect the initial Big Bang to be chaotic rather than smooth (something like the immediate aftermath of an explosion) -- in particular portions that could not communicate in the very early fractions of a second, because they were separated by more than the distance that light could travel. The solution to this puzzle is that very soon after the Big Bang there was a cosmic expansion that suddenly occurred so that the universe almost instantly expanded in size -- as if a small marble suddenly expanded to a size greater than the Milky Way Galaxy -- in a minute fraction of a second. The result was a very smooth and homogeneous universe with little variation. It is after this expansion that the density attained the critical value needed to allow the universe to stay flat for the next 15 billion years. How this sudden expansion should end with such a precise density value remains a great mystery in science to this day. In my view, this is a remarkable instance where God's providence shows through. There is no natural process known to date to account for it (although it is quite a legitimate subject for further scientific inquiry).

Separation of Light From Darkness.
I wrote a brief skit called "Ariel" about this need for a cosmic expansion. You may find it amusing (whether or not you accept the interpretation as accurate). In the skit the cosmic expansion is viewed as the insertion of "darkness" into Creation, as a way of understanding the "separation of light from darkness" in Genesis 1:4, a thought that I developed in the review of a recent book by the late Dr. David Medved.

Dividing Light from Darkness
Sistine Chapel

I see this requirement for a cosmic expansion and the remarkable precision in the initial density of the universe to achieve flatness as sharp points, which are summarized in the box below. The first person to suggest this was Dr. Alan H. Guth in 1980[FOOTNOTE: Give Reference], He prepared a video lecture about it here.

 Sharp Point

Cosmic Inflation of the early Universe
The Separation of Light From Darkness (Genesis 1:4)
Beween 10-40 and 10-36 seconds after the Big Bang the universe underwent cosmic expansion. This smoothed out the universe so that it would remain (nearly) homogeneous for the next 15 billion years.

At the end of this expansion the density of the universe was exactly the critical density required to within 1 part in 1025.

This uniform, homogeneous, density of the universe must not be too homogeneous, or else stars and galaxies could not form. There is a need for minor variations in the homogeneous density to permit the formation of stars and galaxies (see howeve the above remarks on the tendency of a plasma to be neutrally charged over even small volumes). 

Recent results from NASA's Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) launched in June, 2001 show the minor inhomogeneities in the cosmic background radiation. The results of analysing seven years' data from the probe look like this:

The Taurus Constellation
Figure 2
Full-Sky WMAP Cosmic Background Map
This image shows a temperature range of ± 200 microKelvin.
Credit: NASA/WMAP Science Team (February, 2010)

This map is further discussed in a later chapter.

Creation of the Elements
The reason why the universe has to be on the order of 15 billion years old is to allow time to make the elements and the Solar System. Of course the gargantuan and delicate effort to get that to happen would be wasted if the elements failed to show up in the necessary quantity and mix.

The formation of the elements requires vast energy and high density. There are only two ways to achieve this:

Very early -- fractions of a second after the Big Bang -- while the temperature and density of the expanding universe are in the narrow range between being too hot for any matter to coalesce and too cool for kinetic energy to overcome the coulombic forces of repulsion that keep positively charged nuclei from colliding to form larger nuclei. This brief period is over about 12 minutes after the Big Bang, and produces all of the primordial elements, including (virtually) all of the hydrogen and helium, and a small amount of Lithium and Berillium.

Within stars where the gravitational attraction of matter creates the heat and density to ignite the stars and fuse matter into more massive elements.
This is a bit simplistic: the full range of elements requires fusion, fission and radioactive decay, and some of this happens as a part of star burning, some during the intense cataclysm as stars die, and some during the normal radioactive decay of heavy elements. But in general, elements form directly or indirectly as a result of star burning.

The tale of element formation is, frankly, a bit crazy, and is laced with potential pitfalls all along the way. We will go over some of this in later chapters; for now, our purpose is to just give a brief overview.

The biggest potential danger in the creation of the primordial elements was runaway element creation. Why should the primordial elements stop at hydrogen and helium? Why not go on all the way up the element chart? After all, for a brief moment, as the temperature and density plummeted in the first fractions of a second, all the conditions seemed to be met. The answer is the lithium barrier: there is no stable element with atomic weight 5. That would have to be either Helium (2 protons and 3 neutrons)
, Lithium (3 protons and 2 neutrons) or Beryllium (4 protons and 1 neutron). All of these have half-lives about 10-24 seconds or less. Nature doesn't like atomic weight 5, and that effectively prevented the runaway production of higher elements at the very beginning. Why is this? Who knows? but it was the difference between a universe with useful matter and an empty one.

As mentioned earlier, stars cannot form until atoms hold together in the face of destructive high temperature. This happened about 300,000 years after the big bang and marked the first time that gravitation could begin the formation of stars and galaxies. Stars ignite as interstellar clouds of matter (hydrogen and helium) coalesces and heats up from gravitational collapse. Nuclear fusion ignites the stars when the core temperature reaches about ten million degrees, and then is self-maintained by the energy released by the fusion itself. This process of gravitational collapse is awfly slow -- far worse than watching grass grow!

As mentioned above there are opposing tendencies in nature that can lead to catastrophe if not navigated  with considerable care (or luck!). If a gravitational collapse involves too much mass then it may collapse into a black hole; if too little it doesn't ignite into a star, and nothing useful happens. Galaxy-sized masses may work ok -- they usually have a black hole at the center, as well as randomly throughout, but there may be many proper stars formed as well.

Here is where a second miracle occurs -- easily as dramatic and significant as the lithium barrier. The question is, what happens when hydrogen and helium burn? In brief, the lithium barrier is still there, so the only way to get past it is to fuse three helium atoms to form carbon. Triple collisions are very rare and hard to achieve, but, in effect, that is what happens when stars burn helium to form carbon via. the triple-alpha process. We will discuss the details of how this happens in a later chapter, but it occurs because a very precise resonance value is built-into the carbon nucleus.  Without such a resonance, carbon, and the elements beyond carbon could not have been created in the stars. The astronomer Fred Hoyle predicted this resonance about a year before it was discovered in the laboratory, and after the discovery, he commented as follows.

 Sharp Point

Fred Hoyle on the Laws of Nuclear Physics.

   "The genesis [of about half of the elements] depends on the oddest array of apparently random quirks you could possibly imagine.

   "I will try to explain what I mean in terms of an analogy....We would scarcely expect to find Government policy depending in a really crucial way on the fact that the Prime Minister possesses a moustache while the Foreign Secretary does not. These are my random quirks. And if we should find that Government policy depended in a really vital respect on the Minister of Works possessing a mole beneath his left ear, then manifestly we should be justified in supposing that new and hitherto unsuspected connexions existed within the field of political affairs.

   "Yet this is just the case for the building of many complex atoms inside stars. The building of carbon depends on a moustache, the building of oxygen on a mole, and if you prefer a less well known case, the building of the atom dysprosium depends on a slight scar over the right eye.

   "If this were a purely scientific question and not one that touched on the religious problem, I do not believe that any scientist who examined the evidence would fail to draw the inference that the laws of nuclear physics have been deliberately designed with regard to the consequences they produce inside the stars. If this is so, then my apparently random quirks become part of a deep laid scheme. If not, then we are back again to a monstrous sequence of accidents." Fred Hoyle, Lecture in Mervyn Stockwood, ed. Religion and the Scientists SCM 1959, p.64.

Because of the miracle of the resonance in Carbon (and a similar resonance in Oxygen) these elements and similar elements that are fundamental to life processes are found in the universe in the proper amounts. Without this miracle, life could not exist.

Chemical Properties Necessary for Life to Exist

The existence of Life -- any conceivable form of life, not just the sort of life familiar to us -- requires some very special atomic and molecular properties. This is a vast subject that will arise frequently in the Creation Narrative. Here we will note only a few of the most fundamental properties. One of the early treatments of this matter was published in 1913 by Lawrence Henderson in his book The Fitness of the Environment. The quotes below and page references refer to Henderson's book. Many later authors have further developed the subject. One of my favorite is the little book by Harold J. Morowitz, Beginnings of Cellular Life (1992).

These treatments ask not just what is required for life of any sort, not just life as we know it on earth. One author even considers (and dismisses) the possibility of gaseous, liquid or solid (as in crystalline) life[FOOTNOTE: GET REFERENCE!!]. The result of these investigations is that life depends in a fundamental way on certain chemical properties of a small number of elements and molecular compounds.

The required elements are: Hydrogen (H), Carbon (C), Oxygen (O) and Nitrogen (N). These are not just elements that appear in every form of life known on Earth (there are about 15 such elements), but elements and compounds whose properties are absolutely essential for any sort of life to exist. Notably missing from this list are some elements that were at one time thought to be possible candidates: for example Silicone (Si) as a substitute for Carbon, and Sulfur (S) as a substitute for Oxygen. We will defer the discussion of such things to a later chapter.

Water (H2O) is the most basic universal essential for life of any sort to exist. Water is truly a miracle molecule because of its numerous un-matched qualities (discussed in Henderson and many other authors). Henderson calls it "the only fit substance as the basis for life.":

• It is a near-universal solvent, used to transport dissolved gases, nutrients and wastes to and within living cells "literally nothing to compare with water... nearly the whole science of chemistry has been built around water and aqueous solutions" (p.110).

• It is the best or nearly the best choice in many categories involving heat properties:
- Thermal conductivity
- Latent heat of melting (absorption of heat from melting)
- Specific heat (ability to hold heat)
This makes water and in particular the oceans into a remarkable heat regulator for both the Earth's environment and for living species. "The most obvious effect of the high specific heat of water is the tendency of the ocean and of all lakes and streams to maintain a nearly constant temperature." (p. 86).

• Because water expands on freezing, ice floats on the tops of oceans and lakes rather than sinking to the bottom. If ice sank then over the course of time, the bodies of water would gradually freeze from the bottom up, leaving only a thin layer of liquid water near the surface. In this event the oceans could not regulate the Earth's heat and weather.

Carbon in the form of Carbon dioxide (CO2) is an invaluable molecule that also has unmatched properties that are essential to life.
• It dissolves readily in water and forms a weak acid (carbonic acid which combines carbon dioxide and water). "Unlike oxygen, hydrogen, and nitrogen, carbonic acid enters water freely; unlike sulphurous oxide and ammonia, it escapes freely from water. Thus the waters can never wash carbonic acid out of the air, nor the air keep it from the waters. It everywhere accompanies water." (p. 138)
• It is gaseous at normal temperatures and is essential to respiration and in maintaining an ecological balance between plants and animals. "Were carbon dioxide not gaseous, its excretion would be the greatest of physiological tasks; were it not freely soluble, a host of the most universal existing physiological processes would be impossible." (p. 140).

Not surprisingly, Henderson does not develop the vital role of Nitrogen, except to mention that it is found in many carbon chains. The reason for this is that its role in genetic building-blocks was not fully understood until over 50 years later.

In summary, Henderson remarks (p. 276):
"There is, in truth, not one chance in countless millions of millions that the many unique properties of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen, and especially of their stable compounds water and carbonic acid, which chiefly make up the atmosphere of a new planet, should simultaneously occur in the three elements otherwise than through the operation of a natural law which somehow connects them together. There is no greater probability that these unique properties should be without due cause uniquely favorable to the organic mechanism. These are no mere accidents; an explanation is to seek. It must be admitted, however, that no explanation is at hand.

 Sharp Point

Lawrence Henderson on The Fitness of Carbon, Hydrogen and Oxygen
for the Existence of Life

"logically, in some obscure manner, cosmic and biological evolution are one... not merely contingent, but resembling those which in human action we recognize as purposeful." (p. 278)

"But if to the coincidence of the unique properties of water we add that of the chemical properties of the three elements, a problem results under which the science of today must surely break down. If these taken as a whole are ever to be understood, it will be in the future, when research has penetrated far deeper into the riddle of the properties of matter. Nevertheless an explanation cognate with known laws is conceivable, and in the light of experience it would be folly to think it impossible or even improbable. Such an explanation once attained might, however, avail the biologist little; for a further problem, apparently more difficult, remains. How does it come about that each and all of these many unique properties should be favorable to the organic mechanism, should fit the universe for life? And for the answer to this question existing knowledge provides, I believe, no clew." (p. 251)

    "There is, in truth, not one chance in countless millions of millions that the many unique properties of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen, and especially of their stable compounds water and carbonic acid, which chiefly make up the atmosphere of a new planet, should simultaneously occur in the three elements otherwise than through the operation of a natural law which somehow connects them together. There is no greater probability that these unique properties should be without due cause uniquely favorable to the organic mechanism. These are no mere accidents; an explanation is to seek. It must be admitted, however, that no explanation is at hand." (p. 276)

"There is, however, one scientific conclusion which I wish to put forward as a positive and, I trust, fruitful outcome of the present investigation. The properties of matter and the course of comic evolution are now seen to be intimately related to the structure of the living being and to its activities; they become, therefore, far more important in biology than has been previously suspected. For the whole evolutionary process, both cosmic and organic, is one, and the biologist may now rightly regard the universe in its very essence as biocentric." (p. 312)

Are these Necessary Properties of the Universe Essential or Contingent?

The matters discussed in this chapter cover a bewildering array of properties which are absolutely essential for life to exist in our universe. The question remains, are these properties essential or contingent? That is, could a universe possibly exist in which the properties of flatness or the properties of water could be anything other than what they are? This question is unanswerable, at least at the present level of understanding.

There seem to be many steps along the way where things could be different -- which would imply that there are many "accidental" or contingent parameters in our universe. One can certainly imagine a different genetic coding scheme or perhaps something as simple as life based on other-handed buildingblocks than the ones that in fact are used in living matter. One can imagine a universe with different values for critical universal parameters -- the forces of gravity, electricity, etc.  So these parameters seem to be contingent, but at present there is no unified theory to either confirm or refute the notion.

In any case, the universe does seem to be remarkably well suited for the existence of advanced life, as if they were made for each other.



The Silent Speech          Direct Measurement of Astronomical Distances
Direct measurements of distance rely on the use of geometry.

Parallax. Until recently, the direct measurement of the distances to stars and other astronomical bodies has been limited to a few stars that are a few hundred or thousand light years away, using parallax[FOOTNOTE. Parallax methods have been in use since antiquity.  The first parallax measurement to a star was by Bessel in 1838.] measurements.

The nearest "star"  is Alpha Centauri, actually a system of three stars that appears in the Southern Hemisphere as a single star, near to the Southern Cross. Of the three, the nearest star is Proxima Centauri, and the other two form a binary system that are separated by a distance about equal to the distance between the planet Uranus and the Sun. The nearest star is 4.22 light years away, and the binary pair is 4.35 light years away. If the precise location of these stars is measured when the earth is on opposite sides of its orbit, the difference in the angle (about 1.5 seconds of arc) determines the distance.  [The formula is: tan(p) = 1/d (AU units where 1 AU is the distance of the Earth to the Sun)]. This direct method can measure distances up to a few thousand light years - between 1989 and 1993 the satellite Hipparcos measured the parallax of about 120,000 stars in this direct way.

Radio astronomy measures emissions at very low frequencies, with wavelengths on the order of 10 km (AM radio wavelengths are on the order of 10 to 100 km). The detection of these emissions requires very long baseline arrays (VLBAs). There are two remarkable examples of direct distance measurements in radio astronomy. In 1999 radio astronomers reported a direct measurement of 23.5 million light-years to a galaxy (NGC 4258 = Messier 106) in the Big Bear constellation[FOOTNOTE Radio Astronomers Set New Standard for Accurate Cosmic Distance Measurement Press Release June 1, 1999 by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory using the Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA). This is a system of 10 radio antennas that are placed between Hawaii and St. Croix, a distance of about 5,000 miles and controlled by an operations center in Socorro, NM. This array had the greatest resolving power of any astronomical telescope in operation at the time.]. The radio emitters were masers which orbit a black hole in the center of this galaxy. ??The baseline for parallax measurement in this case is the diameter of the masers' orbits -- about 2 light years. The black hole has a mass equal to 39 million suns.

Here is a summary of triangulation Dr. David H. Rogstad of Reasons Organization.

Gravitational lensing. A quasar is a distant object that emits radio waves that vary slowly and randomly in time -- perhaps a few percent change in a month. 

In 1979 Astronomers first discovered a double quasar - Q0957+561. The double quasar seemed to come from a single source -- the radio signals of the two quasars matched if one was delayed by 417 ± 3 days. It appears that some massive object (perhaps a black hole) between earth and the quasar bends the signal path so that two signals arrive with a 6 arc second separation. This bending is called gravitational lensing. It is something predicted by Einstein's general theory of relativity.

A straightforward geometry calculation shows that the distance to the source of the quasar(s) must be at least D = 2.7 billion light years away (actual distance 9.1 billion light years)[FOOTNOTE Walsh, Dennis, Carswell, Robert F., and Weymann, Raymond J. 1979, Nature, 279, 381.  They used the Kitt Peak National Observatory 2.1 meter telescope in Arizona. ]. These double quasars are very rare - about 20 have been found so far.
Gravitational Lensing Geometry
Figure ?
Gravitational Lensing Calculation of minimum distance to Quasar Q0957+561

Gravitational lensing is a direct prediction of Einstein's Theory of General Relativity. The discovery of this double quasar was the first positive evidence of gravitational lensing. Since that time a number of other instances have been discovered. Most of these involve the light from distant galaxies that are lensed by a massive object in or near to the line of sight to the galaxy. If the lens is compact (a massive black hole, for example) and directly in line of sight then an Einstein ring may result. The first Einstein ring (B1938+666) was discovered in 1998 by a radio telescope array. The diameter of the ring was 0.8 arcseconds.

If the gravitational lense is exactly in line of sight then the lensed object appears as a ring called the Einstein Ring. The first Einstein Ring (B1938+666) was discovered by an array of radio telescopes in 1998. The diameter of the ring is 0.8 arcsec leading to a minimum distance of ???. The actual distance is ???.  In 2005 the Einstein Ring FORJ0332-3557 was discovered with a 270° arc and radius of 1.75 arcsec. The lense is reported as 7BY and the distant object is 11 BY away based on a redshift of 3.77.

Double Einstein Ring A double Einstein Ring (SDSSJ0946+1006) was observed in 2007 by the Hubble telescope. The inner ring is from a galaxy  7 billion light years distant and the outer ring is from a galaxy 11 Billion light years distant. The lens is 3 billion light years away.



1 Fred Hoyle, The Intelligent Universe, Michael Joseph (1983)  pp.20-21, 23. In the 1960s, commenting on his discoveries regarding the significance of the carbon and oxygen resonance levels, he said "I do not believe that any physicist who examined the evidence could fail to draw the inference that the laws of nuclear physics have been deliberately designed with regard to the consequences they produce within stars."

2 Conclusion from powerpoint presentation "Big Bang and Beyond" at updated for the more current numbers indicated in the chart,


4. Nuclear resonances increase the nuclear reaction cross-section. "Typically, a series of energies will exist at which the reactions are maximally efficient, or resonant... Consider the schematic reaction A + B -> C. We could make this reaction resonant by adjusting the kinetic energy of the A and B states so that when we add to it the intrinsic energy of the states in the nuclei A and B we obtain a total lying just abive a possible energy level of the nucleus C. The interaction would then be resonant. Although reactions can be made resonant in this way it may not always be possible to add the right amount of kinetic energy to obtain resonance. In stellar interiors the kinetic energy will be determined by the temperature of the star." Barrow & Tipler, The Anthropic Cosmological Principle (1986), fig. 4.1, p. 251. For C and O synthesis see pp. 252-3.

6 Stephen Hawking, "Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays" (p.52). See also B&T p399-400.





Posted 18 February 2010